Today, Bee‘s prompt is to write a short story about a love affair. Since I’m working on developing the characters of Barry, Corinne, Exuberance, and Terrance for a novella project I’ll begin later in the year, I decided to write an exploratory story for them, based on a pivotal moment in Terry and Barry’s marriage.
**Warning: Potential emotional triggers and sporadic cursing.**
“You look sad, today, sweetie. Need someone to talk to?”
I nodded, and didn’t spend the effort it would take to turn around. We’d talked here, before, Exuberance and I, and she’d told me that, despite the cancer that seemed to crop up again each time she thought she’d beaten it back, she saved her energy for “the party, sweetie. Cause life’s always a party if you let it be, know what I mean?”
I’d told her that I could remember a time when I had, but that had been long ago.
I looked again at the cleft in the dunes where they had disappeared. It had been nearly half an hour, now, according to the Rolex Barry had given me so long ago, on our very first anniversary. When he disappeared into the cliffs with his sweet young treat, he’d been wearing a ridiculous Mexican shirt, and cutoff jeans that, despite being sixty-two, he managed to look natural in . Sweet young Corinne had given him a pookah-shell necklace, and he’d had that on, too, the long waves of his silver hair blowing back in the breeze in a way that made my heart hurt – and had nothing at all to do with the disease that was slowly choking the life out of it, and me.
“You’re looking for him – for them.”
I didn’t deny it.
She sat down beside me, uninvited, and pulled a pack of cigarettes from her purse, the slim kind Barry used to smoke; cloves, not tobacco. I could almost taste them, taste those early, heady kisses.
He’d never cheated. Not once –
But I had. Oh, yes. There had been men, and women, too. Every time I got depressed. No matter how hard Barry tried to be enough, to be everything I needed to hold against the hurt and the downward spiraling, the pressure that crushed me as though I were trapped under the slabs of heavy metals in my studio – the only thing that helped was to be with someone else, to throw myself into the first bed I came across, with anyone who would fuck me, any way they wanted to do it – just the way it had been, back when I was a kid, and didn’t know it could be different…
“You’re not garbage,” Barry whispered, every time I dragged my sorry ass home. Sometimes, I was bloody, or covered in the vomit of a debauch, and – nothing but human refuse, the way I always had been. And still he whispered, “You matter. To me, you are the treasure of a lifetime.” And he always washed me tenderly, even if I was still so wasted he had to do it on the floor, and put me to bed, crawling in with me, holding me while I cried and apologized, but inside I was laughing with joy that he had passed the test, again…
I’d orchestrated him and Corinne, because I was sure it would stay platonic – at least, until I died, and Barry sought comfort in his grief. He’d passed every test, after all…
Down on the beach, they emerged – bare to the world they seemed to have forgotten. My throat clutched; and I gasped, my heart squeezed so tight I thought this might be it.
“Oh, Terrance. I’m so sorry.” Exuberance laid a hand on mine, her dark fingers against my pale skin, nails the same vibrant purple as her glittering cocktail gown – a rather ridiculous thing to be wearing in early afternoon, anywhere but here.
I looked away from the window, focusing only on Exuberance. I didn’t want to see the beauty of the two flushed bodies I knew so well juxtaposed upon one another- male and female, aging and ripening, my lover and my portrait model….
“Don’t know why I’m pulling these out; I only smoke them after, anymore.” Those long fingers began to stroke, their message clear, echoing her words with action. Her thigh brushed mine.
Unsure, still, I turned back to watch Barry and Corrine; they ran together into the surf, seeming like dolphins.
I was dying, and Barry was playing in the waves with a girl scarcely a woman, and young enough to be his granddaughter.
“He’s abandoned me.”
“You can have all of this, Terrance, if you want it.” She was leaning in, making sure I could get a look down her low-cut neckline.
The old thrill raced through me, and I didn’t care, right now, about my ruined heart, or whether it might kill me to have sex. I was dying anyway, and Barry had found someone new to treasure.
Her hand drew mine slowly to the edge of the table, then past, to her thigh.
I hesitated. “No, not here. Will you come home with me, right now?”
“Lover, I’ve been hoping you’d ask since the day I first saw you!”
We left, her arm wrapped around my waist. I was ready to throw myself away again – and this time, Barry wasn’t going to be there to clean up my messes.
And I planned to create a disaster. Maybe, if I was lucky, one that would kill me.
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